What are the Piano Pedals?
When you start to play the piano, the first thing you have to deal with is the various keys present on the instrument. The function of the pedals comes afterward. Generally, one has to contend when they are dealing with the keys of a piano or a keyboard. So, while playing the piano, you don’t have to panic about how to handle the different keys and pedals of a piano. After all, it is all about music, not something to be afraid of. To begin, what each pedal in a piano do, first you need to understand the function and type of each pedal.
Different types of pedals and their use
The pedals of the piano are generally levers that are operated by foot. These pedals are situated at the base of the piano to change the sound of the piano. Basically, there are three types of pedals
- The Sustain Pedal
- The Sostenuto Pedal
- The Soft Pedal
1. Sustain Pedal
A Sustain Pedal is also known as a damper pedal, open pedal or loud pedal. It is commonly used in almost every modern piano. This pedal is situated on the rightmost side of the piano and is pressed by the right foot. To understand the function of sustain pedal one has to understand the mechanism of the piano.
A piano is a set of strings. When the keys are pressed, certain music is produced. In other words, when you press the keys of the piano, they are hit by hammers which produce the ringing sound. Eventually, when you release the key, the hammer comes back to its original place, and no sound is produced. As it is also known by the name of ‘damper pedal’ a damper bar is placed on the strings so that the other un-played notes can be prevented from making any sound.
It is only the sustain pedal which can continue the sound of an individual key for a prolonged time. So, the pianists can hold notes as long as they wish by the use of this sustain pedal. With the use of this pedal, one can easily connect one note with another without any hindrance in the sound. With the help of the sustain pedal, the pianists can create a richer harmonics in their music.
While pedaling the piano, the pianist must remember to use their foot like a lever. Their heel should touch the ground, and their foot must work on the pedal. To learn about different pedaling techniques, you can opt for professional piano lessons. Find more about professional piano classes in New York at www.pianolessonsnyc.org and get practical with all the theory you have been reading on to.
2. Sostenuto Pedal
The Sostenuto Pedal or the middle pedal is the most confusing pedals of them all. The pianist does not often use this pedal. This middle pedal is used to sustain only those notes which are held down when the pedal is being depressed. This pedal helps the player to maintain bass notes or chords when they are playing harmonic and melodic lines at the top.
While the sustain pedal supports all the notes, the Sostenuto pedal sustains the selective notes the pianist wish to create. So, the Sostenuto pedal is mainly used for sustaining the bass notes.
The use of Sostenuto pedal in sheet music is just the same as that of the normal pedaling. The only exception is that it is commonly used by the abbreviation of “Sost.” To use this pedal, the pianist has to strike and hold the notes first that they want to sustain by using the Sostenuto pedal.
In recent years some manufacturers have produced some other middle pedals other than the Sostenuto pedal to maintain the bass notes. It is known as the practice pedal or the practice mute pedal. The primary function of this middle pedal is to reduce the sound of the piano, thereby sandwiching a soft layer of feeling in between the string and the hammer.
This pedal is handy as it can be used during the practice sessions, where the player can practice by lowering the level of volume. It is also useful as it can be locked, and the player can practice without pressing the pedal by their left foot throughout their practice.
No notations are visible on the sheet music against this middle pedal as its use is only restricted to practice.
The middle pedals are also known as the “silent pedals.” With the use of this middle pedal, the player can stop the collision of the hammer and the string.
3. Soft Pedal
The Soft Pedal or the “una corda pedal” is the leftmost pedal. When the soft pedal is pressed the internal action of the piano is shifted entirely to the right side. In case of the acoustic piano, the strings are grouped into three to produce a note and are tuned together to make a rich and bold tone. So, when a single key is pressed the hammer beats spontaneously on all the strings.
But for the soft pedal, the hammer generally strikes only two strings, thus creating a soft and mild sound. The difference between the modern pianos and the grand piano is that the hammers in the grand piano would hit only one string for the una corda pedal. But now due to the lack of space inside the piano cabinet the hammer hits two strings instead of one. The left foot is needed to depress the una corda pedal.
If you know the proper use of each of the piano pedals, then you can add color and richness to your music. As the use of pedals in bikes, and cars, are somewhat difficult for the beginners, so is the case with the player who has begun to learn.
In both, the cases time and patience are needed. But once you have mastered yourself in this field, you will remember it all through your life. You can learn various techniques to play this musical instrument flawlessly. To learn to play the piano properly one must patiently learn from the feedbacks given, a correct feedback work as the pillars of success.